‘Children with same-sex parents are the focus of a new Australian study’

05.15.2012, 10:15 AM

The Australian Study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families aims to investigate the physical, mental and social wellbeing of 750 children belonging to about 500 parents. It will involve surveys and interviews to score the children on a large range of measures.

Lead researcher from Melbourne University, Dr Simon Crouch, said although there were likely to be thousands of children with same-sex attracted parents in Australia, very few local studies had ever looked at whether their family circumstances affected their wellbeing and when they had, they were small. Furthermore, he said most studies of such children had been done in northern European countries and the US and they tended to focus on children of lesbian mothers at the expense of those belonging to gay men, bisexuals and transgender people.

They’re asking people to volunteer for the study.


26 Responses to “‘Children with same-sex parents are the focus of a new Australian study’”

  1. Matt says:

    Elizabeth,

    Do you think there is anyway to overcome the selection bias issues inherent in studies like this? It seems like this is always a major obstacle when researchers try to study gay families.

    It seems like it is in everyone’s interest to do as unbiased a survey as possible.

  2. Elizabeth Marquardt says:

    Hey Matt — great question.

    It is possible to structure a study with less selection bias, but it’s harder, takes longer, costs more money, and you end up with smaller (but I believe more illuminating) numbers in the end.

    In our My Daddy’s Name is Donor study, about 39 of the donor conceived persons were born to lesbian mothers. They were part of a sample of 485 who had been recruited from an online panel of more than one million American households who had signed up to do surveys. So, a method with limitations, but still something.

    Charlotte Patterson studied about 44 (I’m going from memory here) offspring raised by lesbian couples who were part of the large, ongoing AddHealth study. Also clever, in my view.

    I wrote some here about the challenges of studying this population, called “seeking representative samples of needles in haystacks.”

    http://familyscholars.org/2010/06/11/seeking-representative-samples-of-needles-in-haystacks/

    And also this, “studying the sperm donor conceived offspring of lesbian mothers”

    http://familyscholars.org/2010/06/11/studying-the-sperm-donor-conceived-offspring-of-lesbian-mothers/

    The population of parents we’re talking about here is a very small part of the overall population, which is one challenge. It’s also been a population that has faced stigma and for a long time has lived largely closeted so that too was a challenge for researchers, so I think of all the challenges that particular one is fading over time and is the best hope for researchers (that more people will begin to identify their sexual orientation when they are part of larger ongoing samples).

    But the researchers in Australia are also going to have some other challenges. I read that they are studying parents who express same sex attraction. Ie not necessarily coupled. And they want to do not only lesbian moms but gay fathers and also bisexual and transgender. (They didn’t say poly). These identities can be fluid and could certainly shift over the course of their child’s childhood. So they’re going to have to come up with a broad set of very clear definitions about who fits in what category they’re studying.

    Also, they are not just studying donor conceived, for example, but all offspring of parents who identify as having same sex attraction who volunteer for their study. So that means that in addition to be raised with one or two (or more?) parents who identify with same sex attraction these children might also be donor conceived or adopted or children of divorce or children born to a single mom or any number of other confounding variables.

    There is a place in the world for asking people (who are likely to be activists and high functioning) to volunteer for studies. It’s one way to learn something, especially when the other ways are so difficult if even impossible. But it has serious limitations.

  3. Matthew says:

    Am I right to think, then, that studies using donor-conceived children who are activists (like Karen, for example) are inherently biased? Should we be suspicious of the testimony of donor-conceived children who are activists? Is that a fair question?

    I know several children of gay and lesbian parents, some of them donor-conceived. All that I know are high-functioning and well-adjusted. I do not think I could distinguished between them and the high-functioning and well-adjusted children of upper-middle-class married heterosexual parents. Nor could I distinguish between the children of gay and lesbian parents who are donor-conceived and those who are not.

  4. Hernan says:

    A critical thinker SHOULD be suspicious (or, if you prefer, skeptical) of any testimony regardless of the source. ANY study that depends of testimony (surveys are testimony) will be inherently biased in one way or another (nature of the beast). The best you can do is try to understand those biases and think through how they might effect one’s confidence in the inferences that can be made from the dataset. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survey_methodology

    I guess my question back to you is this: Have you actually talked to any of these people about how they feel about DC in a direct way? If you have not, then you are probably analyzing your reaction to their public face and not analyzing them in any meaningful way. Turn it around: What level of interaction do you think would be required for people to distinguish your feelings about your Matthew life from other Matthews?

    By their nature, these kind of survey based studies are pretty superficial. I have learned a lot more by interacting (talking, fighting, watching) with DC folks over a long period of time than I have out of these surveys, frankly. If you really want to know, do that… but, even then, skepticism of yourself and them is wise. These things are always BYOB (bring your own baggage).

  5. Matthew says:

    Karen, maybe if you would listen a little to others, they might listen to you. If you showed even an iota of concern for the gay and lesbian issues raised by some of the posters here, they might be interested in listening to your concerns. Funny, how that works.

  6. Matthew says:

    Karen, you are quite free to focus on whatever you want to focus on, but you can’t at the same time complain that no one listens to you when you refuse to listen to others. Most people expect some kind of reciprocity.

  7. polly says:

    In a just and civilised society, should not the rights of children have priority over those of adults??

  8. Jeffrey says:

    In a just and civilised society, should not the rights of children have priority over those of adults??

    Why? We assume parents (or state) are acting in the child’s best interest. We don’t allow children to contract, so why should they have superior rights to adults in other situations.

  9. Matthew says:

    What a surprising and shocking statement: “In a just and civilised society, should not the rights of children have priority over those of adults??” I am not even sure what it means, but quite frankly it sounds frightening, even evocative of fascism, with the notion that citizens are just cogs in a breeding machine to create the reich.

    I assume that Polly does not really mean that, but the idea that the rights of children should have priority over those of adults is simply muddled thinking.

  10. polly says:

    Matthew (and Jeffrey)
    I live in Australia and when I last checked fascism did not have much of a hold in our Parliament. Nevertheless, it is one of the guiding principles enshrined in our state Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 2008 that:
    “the welfare and interests of persons born or to be born as a result of treatment procedures are paramount”.
    Our “muddled” legislators must have got it wrong.

  11. Phil says:

    “the welfare and interests of persons born or to be born as a result of treatment procedures are paramount”.

    polly, perhaps I’m reading that with the wrong emphasis? As far as I know, all persons throughout history were either born or born as a result of treatment procedures. So, every human being, adult or child, fits into those categories.

  12. Matthew says:

    Uh, you did not say this: “one of the guiding principles enshrined in our state Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 2008 that:
    ‘the welfare and interests of persons born or to be born as a result of treatment procedures are paramount,’” which may be debatable but is not surprising or frightening.

    What you said is this: “In a just and civilised society, should not the rights of children have priority over those of adults?”

    The two statements are not the same thing, though the extremists in your movement are such that one cannot help but suspect that some of you probably do believe what you originally posted, and that is frightening. Fascists may not have a hold of Australia’s Parliament, but that does not mean that there are no fascists in Australia (or the US).

  13. Matthew says:

    The entire section of the Guiding Principles actually does not seem at all controversial to me. I don’t think it coheres very closely to what some of you have been posting here, especially the principle that “persons seeking to undergo treatment procedures must not be
    discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation,
    marital status, race or religion.” As I recall, gay men and lesbians are regularly used as whipping boys here for using assisted reproductive treatment at all, even though they use it at a mere fraction of the rate used by heterosexual couples.

  14. Jeffrey says:

    We know what the term paramount means, Karen. No need to be pedantic.

  15. admin says:

    Matthew: Accusing anyone here of being a fascist is completely unacceptable. Either abide by the terms of our Civility Statement or you will be banned from commenting here.